This past October over 2,000 volunteers canvassed neighborhoods and doctors’ offices throughout NJ to bring awareness to the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. There are too many NJ families that are suffering from the disease of addiction. It is so important to focus the public’s attention on identifying early signs and symptoms of addiction. Equally important is preventing unnecessary exposure to prescribed opiate medication that for so many young people becomes a first step to heroin abuse.
On Thursday, NJ.com reported on the Oswald Family’s obituary for their son, Andrew, who died from an overdose of heroin. Much like Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day, the Oswald Family has decided to share their personal tragedy in order to bring greater attention to the opioid epidemic which knows no political, demographic, geographic, or economic boundaries.
PDFNJ extends its condolences to the Oswald Family, and thanks them for their brave and crucial decision to share their personal journey so that other NJ families understand that this disease can strike anywhere and anyone.
The second annual Knock Out Opiate Abuse Day will be held on Friday, October 6, 2017. Details to be released in future blog posts.
HAMILTON -- Obituaries for overdose victims often describe their accomplishments, where they went to school or worked and other generally positive milestones, with little information on how they died.
Andrew Oswald III's does not.
"On January 27, 2017 our beautiful son, Andrew, died from an overdose of heroin," is the first line.
"He was 23 years old. We want to share his story in the hope that lives may be saved and his death will not be in vain. Addiction is a mental illness. No one plans to be an addict," his parents Andrew Jr. and Stephanie wrote.
They go on, describing how their son, a Hamilton native, fought heroin addiction and completed rehabilitation, and how it roared back and killed him last Friday night in the Scranton, Pa. area.
"As a child, Andrew was a treasure and was loved deeply, with so much promise and yet he still died from an overdose. Addiction does not discriminate. Using heroin once is all that it takes to get hooked; from then on you are playing Russian roulette," they write.
And, "The day Andrew died, we died along with him...The pain of his death is heartbreaking and intolerable, which is why stories like Andrew's should not be ignored. The only way we will conquer the heroin epidemic is to share our stories and raise awareness."
From her Hamilton home Thursday, Stephanie Oswald said she always believed her son had a bigger purpose, "And if this is what it has to be, we're going to forge ahead and we will take this to the highest level."
She plans to be a voice, join with others who have lost loved ones to addiction, and to carry on her son's fight against heroin from the other side. It's clearly not what they hoped for their son, to die at 23.
"This is not the purpose I thought I would have, but I am certainly going to make this my purpose," Stephanie said.
It started with his obituary, she said.
For the record, Andrew Oswald III was gainfully employed recently, Stephanie said.
He worked as a counselor at EIHAB Human Services, an organization that serves the adults and children with developmental disabilities and behavioral health challenges.
"He loved his job, he loved what he was doing," Stephanie said. "He became like a mentor, which makes it even harder to understand his demise like this."
He was living and working in Pennsylvania, she said, because it's where they sent him last year for rehab. They noticed his suspected drug use around Christmas of 2015. His eyes looked different, different people started coming around.
One night, she packed his suitcase while he was out and when he came home, she and her husband said to him: "You're either going to live under a bridge, or go to rehab, now."
Stephanie had already made the arrangements, and her son chose rehab. He went to a 35-acre facility in Shickshinny, Pa. and thrived in a 90-day program.
Then he completed three months of sober living and got an apartment there with a friend, and got the counselor job. His parents got him furniture, and he was doing well until he recently ran into a "revolving door junkie."
A friend called, and said Andrew was injecting heroin. "I don't blame anybody, Andrew had freewill," Stephanie said.
"We did everything we could to get him to stop but heroin won the battle," the parents wrote in the obituary.
"Andrew, we can only pray that you have found the peace you desperately searched for here on Earth. We hope you are watching and see how many people loved you and have been truly affected by your death," it concludes.
Andrew's family will celebrate his life Saturday, from 3 to 6 p.m. at D'Errico Whitehorse Mercerville Chapel, 2365 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road in Hamilton.